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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  March 3, 2019 7:00pm-7:59pm PST

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lower fares. better service. sweeter rewards. alaska airlines. and ford. we go further, so you can. you're suing the united states government. that's not what most 11 year olds do. right? >> yeah. >> levi draheim is one of 27 kids asking the u.s. government to block the use of fossil fuels. they say it's causing climate change, and they're amassed 50 years of evidence that's already forced the government to make some remarkable admissions. >> they got them with their own words. >> it's really the clearest, most compelling evidence i've ever had in any case i've litigated in over 20 years. >> when that train hit the switch and came in on top of us, you could see where it rocked.
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my god, no. please, no, please, no. >> this is first time engineer mark james has talked about the violent crash between his parked freight train and an amtrak passenger train. it happened because the signal system was out of service. but that's not the only problem we found with the safety of our railroads. >> people might be thinking, well, i don't care about this story. i don't ride a train, but most communitys have railroad traffic going through it. >> these third grade centers brooklyn are setting the binary code basics of computer science, boys and girls are engaged and excited in equal numbers. >> i have the code 01. and then it repeats. >> but jump up 15 or 20 years. look in almost any computer company, and the girls are mostly gone. it's men, men, and more men. >> it's a chicken-egg problem.
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there is not enough women going into the field, and because the field is so male-dominateed, it doesn't make women comfortable. both problems hurt each other. >> i'm steve >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm scott pelley. >> i'm anderson cooper. >> i'm sharyn alfonsi. >> i'm bill whitaker. those stories, tonight, on "60 minutes." >> cbs money watch sponsored by lincoln financial, helping you create a secure financial future. >> good evening. president trump says a strong dollar and interest rate hikes are hurting the economy. a wahhaj executive facing extradition to the u.s. appears in court on wednesday, and suss seconds for spacex, a new crew capsule has reached the space station. i'm david begnaud, cbs news.
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you won't find relief here. congestion and pressure? go to the pharmacy counter for powerful claritin-d. while the leading allergy spray only relieves 6 symptoms, claritin-d relieves 8, including sinus congestion and pressure. claritin-d relieves more. >> kroft: of all the cases working their way through the federal court system, none is more interesting or potentially more life changing than juliana versus the united states. to quote one federal judge,
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"this is no ordinary lawsuit." it was filed back in 2015 on behalf of a group of kids who are trying to get the courts to block the u.s. government from continuing the use of fossil fuels. simat change, endangering their future and violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. when the lawsuit began, hardly anyone took it seriously, including the government's lawyers, who have since watched the supreme court reject two of their motions to delay or dismiss the case. four years in, it is still very much alive, in part because the plaintiffs have amassed a body of evidence that will surprise even the skeptics, and have forced the government to admit that the crisis is real. the case was born here in eugene, oregon, a tree-hugger's paradise, and one of the cradles of environmental activism in the united states. the lead plaintiff, university
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of oregon student kelsey juliana, was only five weeks old when her parents took her to her first rally to protect spotted owls. today, her main concern is climate change, drought and the growing threat of wildfires in the surrounding cascade mountains. >> kelsey juliana: there was a wildfire season that was so intense, we were advised not to go outside. the particulate matter in the smoke was literally off the charts. i mean, it was so bad, it was past severe, in terms of danger to health. >> kroft: and you think that's because of climate change. >> juliana: that's what scientists tell me. >> kroft: it's not just scientists. even the federal government now acknowledges in its response to the lawsuit that the effects of climate change are already happening and likely to get worse, especially for young people who will have to deal with them for the long term. how important is this case to you? >> juliana: this case is everything.
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this is the climate case. we have everything to lose, if we don't act on climate change right now, my generation and all the generations to come. >> kroft: she was 19 when the lawsuit was filed, and the oldest of 21 plaintiffs. they come from ten different states, and all claim to be affected or threatened by the consequences of climate change. the youngest, levi draheim, is in sixth grade. >> kroft: you're 11 years old, and you're suing the united states government. that's not what most 11-year- olds do, right? >> levi draheim: yeah. >> kroft: he's lived most of his life on the beaches of a barrier island in florida that's a mile wide and barely above sea level. what's your biggest fear about this island? >> draheim: i fear that i won't have a home here in the future. >> kroft: that the island will be gone. >> draheim: yeah. that the island will be underwater, because of climate change. >> kroft: so you feel like you've got a stake in this. >> draheim: yes.
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>> kroft: the plaintiffs were recruited from environmental groups across the country by julia olson, an oregon lawyer, and the executive director of a non-profit legal organization called "our children's trust." she began constructing the case eight years ago out of this spartan space now dominated by this paper diorama that winds its way through the office. so what is this? >> julia olson: so, this is a timeline that we put together. >> kroft: it documents what and when past u.s. administrations knew about the connection between fossil fuels and climate change. the timeline goes back 50 years, beginning with the presidency of lyndon johnson. >> olson: so, during president johnson's administration, they issued a report in 1965 that talked about climate change being a catastrophic threat. >> kroft: whether it was a democrat or a republican in office, olson says, there was an awareness of the potential dangers of carbon dioxide emissions. >> olson: every president knew
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that burning fossil fuels was causing climate change. >> kroft: 50 years of evidence has been amassed by olson and her team, 36,000 pages in all, to be used in court. >> olson: our government, at the highest levels, knew and was briefed on it regularly by the national security community, by the scientific community. they have known for a very long time that it was a big threat. >> kroft: has the government disputed that government officials have known about this for more than 50 years, and been told and warned about it for 50 years? >> olson: no. they admit that the government has known for over 50 years that burning fossil fuels would cause climate change. and they don't dispute that we are in a danger zone on climate change. and they don't dispute that climate change is a national security threat and a threat to our economy and a threat to people's lives and safety. they do not dispute any of those facts of the case.
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>> kroft: the legal proceedings have required the government to make some startling admissions in court filings. it now acknowledges that human activity- in particular, elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases- is likely to have been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid- 1900s, that global carbon dioxide concentrations reached levels unprecedented for at least 2.6 million years. that climate change is increasing the risk of loss of life and the extinction of many ecies and is associated increases hurricanetense stormy precipitation, the loss of sea ice and rising sea levels. and, the government acknowledges that climate change's effects on agriculture will have consequences for food scarcity. so you've got them with their own words. >> olson: we have them with their own words. it's really the clearest, most compelling evidence i've ever had in any case i've litigated
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in over 20 years. >> kroft: the lawsuit claims the executive and legislative branches of government have proven incapable of dealing with climate change. it argues that the government has failed in its obligation to protect the nation's air, water, forests and coast lines. and, it petitions the federal courts to intervene and force the government to come up with a plan that would wean the country off fossil fuels by the middle of this century. >> kroft: you're just saying, "do it-- we don't care how." >> olson: do it well, and do it in the timeframe that it needs to be done. >> kroft: you're talking about a case that could change economics in this country. >> olson: for the better. >> kroft: well, you say it changes the economy for the better, but other people would say it would cause huge disruption. >> olson: if we don't address climate change in this country, economists across the board say that we are in for economic crises that we have never seen before. >> kroft: the lawsuit was first filed during the final years of the obama administration in this
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federal courthouse in eugene. did they take this case seriously when you filed it? >> olson: i think in the beginning they thought they could very quickly get the case dismissed. >> kroft: in november 2016, a federal judge stunned the government by denying its motion to dismiss the case, and ruling it could proceed to trial. in what may become a landmark decision, judge ann aiken wrote, "exercising my reasoned judgment, i have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society." a federal judge ever said that before? >> olson: no judge had ever written that before. >> kroft: the opinion was courts have never recognized a constitutional right to a stable climate. >> ann carlson: that's a big stretch for a court. >> kroft: ann carlson is a professor of environmental law at u.c.l.a. like almost everyone else in the legal community, she was certain the case was doomed.
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>> carlson: there's no constitutional provision that says that the environment should be protected. >> kroft: why is the idea that the people of the united states have a right to a stable environment such a radical idea? >> carlson: well, i think that judge aiken actually does a very good job of saying it's not radical to ask the government to protect the health, and the lives and the property, of this current generation of kids. look, if you can't have your life protected by government policies that save the planet, then what's the point of having a constitution? >> kroft: how significant is this case? >> carlson: well, if the plaintiffs won, it'd be massive, particularly if they won what they're asking for, which is, get the federal government out t nto e business ofin any wayssn dramatically curtailing grde protect the children who are the plaintiffs, in order to create a safe climate. that would be enormous. >> kroft: so enormous that the
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trump administration, which is now defending the case, has done everything it can to keep the trial from going forward. it's appealed judge aiken's decision three times to the ninth circuit court in california, and twice to the supreme court. each time it's failed. >> olson: they don't want it to go to trial. >> kroft: why? >> olson: because they will lose on the evidence that will be presented at trial. >> kroft: and that's why they don't want one. >> olson: that's why they don't want one. they know that once you enter that courtroom and your witnesses take the oath to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, the facts are the facts, and alternative facts are perjury. and so, all of these claims and tweets about climate change not being real, that doesn't hold up in a court of law. >> kroft: the justice department declined our request for an interview, but in court hearings, in briefs, it's called the lawsuit "misguided, unprecedented and unconstitutional." it argues that energy policy is the legal responsibility of
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congress and the white house, not a single judge in oregon. and, while climate change is real, it's also a complicated global problem that was not caused and cannot be solved by just the united states government. in other words, it's not responsible. why is the federal government responsible for global warming? i mean it doesn't produce any carbon dioxide. how are they causing it? >> olson: they're causing it through their actions of subsidizing the fossil fuel energy system, permitting every aspect of our fossil fuel energy system, and by allowing for extraction of fossil fuels from our federal public lands. we are the largest oil and gas producer in the world now because of decisions our federal government has made. >> kroft: what about the chinese government? what about the indian government? >> olson: clearly, it's not just the united states that has caused climate change, but the united states is responsible for
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25% of the atmospheric carbon dioxide that has accumulated over the many decades. >> kroft: julia olson is confident they're going to prevail in court. ann carlson and most of the legal community still think it's a long-shot, but she says she's been wrong about this case every step of the way. >> carlson: courts have asked governments to do bold things. the best example would be brown versus the board of education, when the court ordered schools to desegregate with all deliberate speed. so there have been court decisions that have asked governments to do very dramatic things. this might be the biggest. >> kroft: you've been stunned by how far this case has gotten. why has it gotten this far? >> carlson: i think there are several reasons this case has actually withstood motions to dismiss. i think the first is that the lawyers have crafted the case in a way that's very compelling. you have a number of kids who are very compelling plaintiffs, who are experiencing the harms
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of climate change now and will experience the harms of climate change much more dramatically as they get older. i think the hard question here is the law. >> kroft: the next oral arguments in juliana versus the united states are scheduled for june in portland. but whatever happens next will certainly be appealed. 2,000 miles away, in the aptly named town of rayne, louisiana, the family of one of the plaintiffs, 15-year-old jayden foytlin, is still rebuilding from the last disaster in 2016 that dumped 18 inches of rain on rayne and southern louisiana in just 48 hours. >> jayden foytlin: that's just something that shouldn't happen. you can't really deny that it, climate change has something to do with it. and you can't deny that it's something that we have to pay attention to. i'm not sure if most of louisiana, of south louisiana is going to be here. that's just a really big worry of mine. >> kroft: for the foreseeable future, it's impossible to
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>> stahl: there have been a number of catastrophic train crashes in recent years that may seem to have been isolated incidents. but, it turns out, they are connected in an important way. they illustrate a failure in the railroad industry to implement a life-saving technology that could have prevented them. the list of accidents includes one last year in cayce, south carolina where an improperly aligned track switch sent amtrak's silver star, its crew and more than 100 passengers careening off the mainline track and barreling into a c.s.x. freight train parked on a siding. >> mark james: when it hit, i mean, you can couple up at six miles an hour, and it'll shake the ground. and this thing hit at 51 miles an hour. and the blast was unbelievable. >> stahl: mark james was right there. he was the engineer of the
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c.s.x. freight train that night. >> james: and they're bringing people off with broke arms, legs, people fr-- mangled, really. and this is something i'll never, i'll never get over. i couldn't imagine anybody else that's ever seen that before. >> stahl: and right up close. >> james: yeah. that close. >> stahl: as the engineer, mark james was driving the c.s.x. train along different tracks in the yard, in order to unload freight. that night, he and his conductor were working under unfamiliar conditions, because the electrical signal system that sends out alerts when the tracks are not lined up properly was out of service. >> james: nobody can see what we're doing. it's called dark territory. >> stahl: it was the c.s.x. conductor's job that night to throw the switches by hand, like this, to realign the tracks and thereby change the direction the train could go. are there a lot of switches?
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>> james: lots of switches, yes. >> stahl: like, how many? >> james: he probably handled close to 40 switches that evening. >> stahl: but there was only one switch that would matter for the passengers and crew of amtrak's silver star-- the switch to keep amtrak on the main line. >> james: that's when i ask him, "did you get the mainline switch?" and he assured me that he had thrown it, 100%. >> stahl: he said, "100%?" >> james: uh-huh. >> stahl: in the training, does it say that you should check, you should double-check? >> james: no. there's no way i can get off a locomotive and go check every switch he throws. that way, you'd get nothing done. >> stahl: but you had a feeling. >> james: yeah. i did. i asked him multiple times. i trusted him that he had gotten the switch back. >> stahl: at that moment, southbound amtrak 91 was bearing down on that mainline switch. mark james says he had gotten off the train to stretch his legs. >> james: i get down and i'm expecting these headlights, very
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bright coming, to get on past us. and then i see-- you could tell when that train hit the-- hit the switch and came in on top of us, you could see where it-- where it rocked. my mind was just crazy. i didn't-- "oh, my god, no. please no. please no." >> stahl: a surveillance camera near the tracks captured the amtrak train as it went under a bridge and slammed into the stationary c.s.x. train. >> james: and it was just tearing the locomotives up. and it went up, over, and turned over that way. and there was nothing left of where i was sitting. and i thought my conductor was dead. >> stahl: was he sitting right at the point of impact? >> james: as the collision was happening, somehow he made it out the back door. so i'm talking to him. he's in shock. he's sitting there saying, "i know i got that switch back. i know i got that switch back--" >> stahl: this is what was left of the other train's locomotive.
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that amtrak train's engineer and conductor were killed. one of the passenger cars folded in half. more than 90 people were injured. >> robert sumwalt: it only took about seven seconds from the time that it hit this switch-- >> stahl: oh. >> sumwalt: --and it collides with the stationary c.s.x. >> stahl: robert sumwalt is the chairman of the national transportation safety board, which is investigating the crash. what if that c.s.x. train had toxic chemicals in it? >> sumwalt: well, we've certainly seen accidents with toxic chemicals onboard, where a switch was left in the wrong position, right here in south carolina, in fact. >> stahl: it was just over 50 miles away, in graniteville, where a norfolk southern freight train derailed in 2005, leaking tons of chlorine gas, killing nine people and leaving 554 with respiratory injuries. and the town has never been the same, as i understand it. >> sumwalt: well, that's right. so people might be thinking, "well, i-- this-- i don't care
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about this story. i don't ride a train." but most communities have railroad traffic going through it. >> albert linden: every day you get some of the locomotives loaded with everything. they heading that way, and they moving 60 miles an hour, too. >> stahl: albert linden owns an electrical contracting business next to the crash site in cayce, south carolina. it was his surveillance camera that captured the accident. ( train rumbling ) >> linden: that's how fast it was going. >> stahl: that's how fast it was going. >> linden: yes, ma'am. these tracks are in horrible shape. >> stahl: had you ever seen any other accident? any derailment? >> linden: yes, ma'am. it's quite frequent. >> stahl: it's frequent? >> linden: in the last ten years, there's probably been seven, eight of them. they forgot to flip the switch, and derailed them in here. >> stahl: the same thing? >> linden: yes, ma'am. forgetting to flip the switch. >> stahl: and you're just befor? >> linden: they, they-- it's a common occurrence. >> stahl: but those didn't involve the lives of more than
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100 passengers who- along with engineer mark james-- were counting on the c.s.x. conductor to make sure the tracks were pointing in the right direction for amtrak to pass through. is there anything that you should have done, that you didn't do? >> james: no. >> stahl: nothing. >> james: i can't see what my conductor's doing. and al-- i have to trust him. we have to work together. and i did trust him. and he's human. he made a mistake. >> stahl: what if we told you that mistakes like that-- human errors-- can be caught, and crashes prevented, by a technology that was supposed to be in place by now? congress mandated that most of the country's major railroads install the technology by 2015. in a complex arrangement, congress extended that deadline first to 2018, and now again to 2020.
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the technology is called positive train control-- p.t.c. it's a computerized system that uses technology like g.p.s. and wifi to transmit information from sensors and signals installed along the tracks to and from the trains. it amounts to an automatic braking system. >> engineer: septa extra 835, engineer to conductor, over. >> stahl: pat desir, an engineer for the southeastern pennsylvania transportation authority, demonstrated how the system works. this is the speed limit, and this is what you're going at the moment. >> pat desir: exactly. it enforces my speed. >> stahl: so it can stop the train, but it can also slow you down to keep you at the right speed. >> desir: exactly. see, right now, we're supposed to be doing 25 miles per hour. all right, i'm going to go above it. and i'm going to show you how p.t.c. works. all right? i'll get to about 28 miles per hour.
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and i'm bringing it up. you feel... ( beeping ) ...how fast we're going? and now-- ( noise ) >> stahl: whoa. >> desir: and we received a penalty brake application. brought the train to a complete stop. >> stahl: whoa. this commuter railroad was one of the first to install the equipment. but others have been slow to follow, and that has led to deadly consequences. the p.t.c. mandate was imposed after a crash in chatsworth, california that killed 25 people. since then, there have been 22 crashes, killing a total of 29 people and injuring more than 500. >> 911 operator: yesis is911.>>s >> woman: tons of people are hurt. >> stahl: if p.t.c. had been installed, this derailment a year ago in washington state-- when amtrak 501 was going twice the speed limit-- wouldn't have happened. >> woman: the train is hanging off the overpass. there's bodies laying
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everywhere. >> stahl: and this crash in 2015 when an amtrak train was going too fast in philadelphia wouldn't have happened either. the major railroads-- including c.s.x. and amtrak-- each own miles of their own tracks, and their trains ride on each other's tracks. to make matters more complicated, they're installing different p.t.c. systems, and have to make them compatible with the other companies that ride on their tracks. they've also been stymied by software and equipment challenges and regulatory hurdles. as of today, only 10% of the mandated railroads have fully implemented p.t.c. it seems so obvious. it just seems so urgent, that it's almost unfathomable that it doesn't get done. >> sumwalt: that's why the n.t.s.b. is just flabbergasted that we still don't have it, more than ten years after congress mandated positive train control.
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>> stahl: one issue has been the federal railroad administration, f.r.a., the railroad's regulatory agency, criticized in government reports for not vigorously enforcing the p.t.c. mandate. we tried to talk to the agency, but they declined our interview request. its handling of p.t.c. has been a source of frustration for robert sumwalt of the n.t.s.b. the regulatory agency, the federal railroad administration, are they just not doing their job? >> sumwalt: well, we have issued recommendations to the f.r.a., and they've not acted upon those. >> stahl: why are they so lenient with the railroa somebody told us that, in his opinion, that they're captive to the railroad system, to the industry. >> sumwalt: the regulator needs to step up to the plate and do their job and regulate. >> stahl: who's responsible? >> sumwalt: well, ultimately, it's up to the railroads to put
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this system in place. it's a steep climb for them. it's going to cost, depending on who you talk to, anywhere between $10 and $14 billion for the system to be implemented. >> stahl: okay. so... >> sumwalt: you're right. >> stahl: i mean, it's safety. you're, they're, they have people's lives in their hands. >> sumwalt: yes, and we're confounded by that as well. and for every day that goes by, we are at continued risk. >> stahl: when there's a train crash involving amtrak, it usually pays the damages. but, because it is largely funded by the government, that means the taxpayers pay. we have learned that amtrak agreed, decades ago, in secret indemnity contracts, to be responsible for damages even if the freight company is at fault and the accident occurs on the freight company's tracks. the freight company in the south carolina crash, c.s.x., declined
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our interview request, but sent us a letter saying it has already spent $2.5 billion on p.t.c., and that the crash was "the result of human error, and violations of long-standing operating procedures." c.s.x. fired both the conductor and engineer, mark james. >> s: >> james: yes. >> stahl: are you challenging the firing? >> james: yes, yes. there's nothing i could have done to prevent the accident. i did nothing to cause the accident, and i got fired anyway. >> stahl: james is unemployed. he's raising a teenage daughter, and is facing large medical bills for p.t.s.d. >> james: you can't sleep at night, you know. if you wake up, this is in your head. >> stahl: still. >> james: yeah, and nightmares, visions, like in-- loud noises.
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>> stahl: like a soldier. >> james: yeah. >> stahl: in your opinion, is train travel safe? >> james: no. >> stahl: would you put your daughter on an amtrak train? >> james: no. i wouldn't get on one myself. >> stahl: amtrak, which declined our interview request, sent us a statement saying it has made substantial strides on implementing p.t.c.
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>> alfonsi: there are half a million open computing jobs in the united states right now. new ones are being created at nearly four times the rate of
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other kinds of jobs, and they pay almost twice as well. the problem is, the people in a position to get those great jobs are overwhelmingly male. women occupy just a quarter of computing jobs. it's not a new issue. companies, universities and foundations have spent years, and millions, trying to attract women to tech. but the number of women majoring in computer science has actually declined. we wondered why those efforts have failed, and found one group that may have a chance to finally crack the code. >> teacher: what is the activity going to be about? >> kids: binary code! >> teacher: beautiful. >> alfonsi: these third-graders in brooklyn are studying the binary-code basics of computer science. boys and girls are engaged, and excited, in equal numbers. >> student: you have to count the code-- 0,0,1, and then it repeats again. >> alfonsi: but jump up 15 or 20 years, look in almost any computer company, and the girls are mostly gone.
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it's men, men, and more men. >> bonnie ross: boys and men, the numbers are moving up. we are getting a lot more into computer science. but with women and girls, it's going down. >> alfonsi: bonnie ross is a corporate vice president at microsoft, and runs its videogame studio that produces the blockbuster game "halo." as a rare woman in a tech-sector leadership position, she's determined to recruit more women for her team. >> ross: in many times, there's not even a way where i could bring a woman into a specific job, because the candidates are just not there. >> alfonsi: you can't find them. >> ross: can't find them. >> alfonsi: is it that you're not looking around enough, or they're just not there? >> ross: actually-- they're just not there. >> alfonsi: on the day we met her, she told us there were 4,000 current job openings at microsoft alone. so the few women candidates with computer science degrees are as heavily recruited as star athletes. >> ross: the interns that we have, where we're offering them, hiring positions, they have offers from five to seven other top tech companies. >> alfonsi: your interns are--
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have five or seven offers by the time they leave? >> ross: it's amazing. yes. these women, basically, they open every door, because we all want them, and there's so few of them, and they're amazingly talented. there's just not that many of them. >> hadi partovi: it's a chicken/ egg problem. there's not enough women going into the field, and because the field is so male-dominated, it doesn't make women comfortable. and both problems hurt each other. >> alfonsi: hadi partovi was born in iran, where he taught himself to code as a kid. after immigrating to the u.s., he began his career at microsoft, then founded two tech startups and made a fortune in silicon valley. his biggest mark may be with his current project, a non-profit called code.org, which may finally help close the tech skills gender gap. >> partovi: we now have over ten million girls coding on code.org. >> alfonsi: that's a lot of kids. >> partovi: that's a lot of kids. >> alfonsi: its audacious goal is to teach computer science to every student in america, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, with online lessons that
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begin with the simplest concepts of computer science. >> student: you have to add more than one. >> alfonsi: it looks like games. but what are they really learning? >> partovi: first of all, is just putting commands together to build a really basic program. a computer program is a lot like a cooking recipe. you know, and a simple recipe could say, you know, crack an egg, put it in a pan, light a fire and cook it. and more complicated recipes have a lot of preparation. but you start with something simple. >> alfonsi: over time, students learn to build apps, create websites, and write computer programs, which is essentially what all those guys in all those tech jobs do for a living. >> partovi: in the current workforce, the gender gap hasn't changed. in fact, it's gotten slightly worse over the last ten years. >> alfonsi: there have been huge efforts made to get more women into computer science. and you said it, fewer are going into computer science. what is going on? >> partovi: well, many of the efforts to get women into computer science, i think, start late. and, if you start-- by the time
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somebody is 18 or 19, they have so many more pre-developed stereotypes and inhibitions, and-- and other passions that they've, at this time, developed. >> alfonsi: as he says, college, or even high school is way too late, because of what's known as "the middle-school cliff," a very well-documented decline in girls' interest in science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called "stem" subjects. >> partovi: middle school is roughly when girls traditionally drop out of stem fields. and for computer science, they not-- not even been exposed to it at that young age in many cases. and that's when we need to start. >> alfonsi: code.org gets girls interested when they're even younger, starting in kindergarten. and because its goal is to teach computer science to every kid, it has the potential to change the face of the tech workforce. >> partovi: the majority of our students are girls or under- represented minorities. in the code.org classrooms, whites and asian males are the minority.
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there are only about 30% white and asian males. 70% are girls or black or hispanic or native american students. >> alfonsi: is that by design? >> partovi: that's totally by design. we started this to, basically, equalize things. and we're almost at perfect population balance in our classrooms. >> alfonsi: wow. one of the biggest challenges code.org has faced is finding enough teachers for all those classrooms. is it true that we only graduated 75 computer science teachers last year, from all of the universities and colleges in the united states? >> partovi: yes. it's crazy. >> alfonsi: how is that possible? >> partovi: out of the 24,000 stem teachers that go through teaching programs at american universities, almost all of them become math or science teachers. 75 became computer science teachers. >> alfonsi: by contrast, in just the five years since it was founded, code.org has trained 75,000 teachers. >> partovi: and these aren't computer scientists. these are english teachers and science teachers and history teachers. they just realize, my kids aren't going to ever learn this if i don't teach it.
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so they've just decided i'm going to go up to code.org, find their curriculum and just start teaching it. >> alfonsi: that's exactly what alexis dixon did. >> alexis dixon: what blocks do you think we're going to need in order to code this next stage? >> alfonsi: she teaches fourth grade at the brooklyn arbor public school in new york, and says it was a visit to a friend working at facebook headquarters that motivated her to teach computer science. >> dixon: i looked around and i saw the lack of women and diversity on the campus. and so, if i can get the students that i have currently to fill those positions at facebook and be the future, and create their own companies, then that will help, like, change this entire field. and that feels really, really powerful. >> alfonsi: was it intimidating at all, at first? >> dixon: oh, definitely. ( laughs ) yeah, definitely. not knowing what it was, not knowing really what computer science is, is very intimidating, and feeling like i might not know the answers. >> partovi: the reality is, you don't need to be a computer e teacr.if you thinkbout y
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biology acheisn't a sur. >> alfonsi: it sounds crazy to say you don't need to be a computer scientist to teach computer science. don't you? shouldn't you be? ( laughs ) >> partovi: we provide the lesson plans and the curriculum and video lectures. and the kids, not only are learning, they love it. this is something that, if the teacher wants to do it, they can do it. >> alfonsi: really? >> partovi: really. >> teacher 1: i'd start with the first body tag. >> teacher 2: right here? >> alfonsi: code.org believes it can train just about anyone to teach computer science. >> trainer: this is where you're totally plugged in. you get to geek out now, and actually do your programming. >> alfonsi: hundreds of middle and high school teachers come to its free week-long sessions during the summer. the biggest companies in tech provide code.org with the bulk of its funding, and their founders help teach the online lessons. >> mark zuckerberg: we're going to be able to use the repeat block in order to be able to do this very easily. >> alfonsi: elementary school teachers like alexis dixon can start teaching after just one
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day-long workshop. >> dixon: keep going. oh, wait. >> student: oh, right there. >> dixon: yeah. >> alfonsi: so where are we now? what percentage of kids in the united states are learning computer science? >> partovi: this is what's amazing. five years in, 25% of all students in america have an account on code.org. and what's even more incredible is, among the 11-year-olds, the ten- and 11-year-olds, that's the age i started, two-thirds of all american students have an account on code.org. >> alfonsi: one reason they've reached so many kids so quickly is that a lot of the lessons- especially for younger kids- are taught through play. >> bill gates: the "if" block helps the zombie make a decision. >> alfonsi: that play-based problem-solving appears to be especially effective with girls. >> dixon: many lessons have introductory videos, where they might have someone who is a dancer that uses technology in her routines. and so, if someone that loves dancing is like, "oh, wait, i don't have to just sit in front of a computer-- i can use it and combine my passion with computer science." >> alfonsi: it doesn't have to be a lonely person in front of a
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terminal. >> dixon: exactly, exactly. >> ross: hey. >> alfonsi: bonnie ross of microsoft says that connecting a sense of fun and creativity to computers and technology is crucial to getting and keeping girls engaged. it used to be kind of, like, you know, the science and technology people went into this building, and the arts people went into that building. and it seems like a lot of women were lost to one versus the other. >> ross: yeah, it's interesting. and research that we've done at microsoft, of the girls we've talked to, 91% of them feel that they are creative, they identify with being creative. but when asked about computer science, they don't see computer science as creative. and so, i think that we do need to connect the dots, because it is incredibly creative, it's just that we're not doing a good job of showing them what they can do with it. >> alfonsi: at marymount girls school in new york, they're making that connection to creativity using electronic building blocks called littlebits- think legos with built-in circuits-- to play and
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experiment. >> sophia: i made a robot. so, when you open this up, in the inside... >> alfonsi: what's in there? >> sophia: so, there's a circuit in here, and it's basically a motor, and a few other things. and then, so, if you have, have, like, a bad day or something, and you need a hug, you just press this button, and its arms will give you a hug. and then-- >> alfonsi: are you kidding me? >> sophia: --all you have to do is just keep pressing it, and they'll go back down. >> alfonsi: by the time the girls at marymount get to 8th grade, they are using more sophisticated circuit boards and writing computer code to create bots wncs. >> madeline: i fell in love with the part of it that was making stuff and hands-on projects. and i said, "i want to do this. i want to do this for the rest of my life." >> samantha: science is my favorite subject. i love to create. i like inventing things. i like playing around with computers, technology and
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physics. >> alfonsi: you guys know that the-- there's a shortage of women in these fields. what's your reaction that there's not that many women? >> samantha: it makes me want to change that. like, i am going to be one of those women. >> alfonsi: we went to a tech job fair in new york recently. it was a sea of men. just about the only women on hand were those recruiting for tech companies. that picture hasn't changed in decades, but it might be about to. >> partovi: if even 1% of the girls on code.org who are-- who are learning this in middle school, elementary school and high school, if even 1% of those students decide to major in computer science in the university, that'll even the-- the-- the 50/50 balance among the university students. >> alfonsi: just 1%. >> partovi: yeah. >> alfonsi: you think you can do it? >> partovi: i think if we look at this in about five, ten years, the gender gap in university computer science will be gone.
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